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Anatomy and Physiology

The respiratory system is situated in the thorax, and is responsible for gaseous
exchange between the circulatory system and the outside world. Air is taken in via the
upper airways (the nasal cavity, pharynx and larynx) through the lower airways (trachea,
primary bronchi and bronchial tree) and into the small bronchioles and alveoli within the
lung tissue.
Move the pointer over the coloured regions of the diagram; the names will appear at the
bottom of the screen)
The lungs are divided into lobes; The left lung is composed of the upper lobe, the
lower lobe and the lingula (a small remnant next to the apex of the heart), the right
lung is composed of the upper, the middle and the lower lobes.
The respiratory system is divided into two main components:
Upper respiratory tract: Composed of the nose, the pharynx, and the larynx, the
organs of the upper respiratory tract are located outside the chest cavity.
Nasal cavity: Inside the nose, the sticky mucous membrane lining the nasal
cavity traps dust particles, and tiny hairs called cilia help move them to the nose
to be sneezed or blown out.
Sinuses: These air-filled spaces along side the nose help make the skull lighter.
Pharynx: Both food and air pass through the pharynx before reaching their
appropriate destinations. The pharynx also plays a role in speech.
Larynx: The larynx is essential to human speech.
Lower respiratory tract: Composed of the trachea, the lungs, and all segments of the
bronchial tree (including the alveoli), the organs of the lower respiratory tract are located
inside the chest cavity.
Trachea: Located just below the larynx, the trachea is the main airway to the
lungs.
Lungs: Together the lungs form one of the bodys largest organs. Theyre
responsible for providing oxygen to capillaries and exhaling carbon dioxide.
Bronchi: The bronchi branch from the trachea into each lung and create the
network of intricate passages that supply the lungs with air.
Diaphragm: The diaphragm is the main respiratory muscle that contracts and
relaxes to allow air into the lungs.
Mechanics of Breathing
To take a breath in, the external intercostal muscles contract, moving the ribcage up
and out. The diaphragm moves down at the same time, creating negative pressure
within the thorax. The lungs are held to the thoracic wall by the pleural membranes, and
so expand outwards as well. This creates negative pressure within the lungs, and so air
rushes in through the upper and lower airways.
Expiration is mainly due to the natural elasticity of the lungs, which tend to collapse if
they are not held against the thoracic wall. This is the mechanism behind lung collapse
if there is air in the pleural space (pneumothorax)
Physiology of Gas Exchange
Each branch of the bronchial tree eventually sub-divides to form very narrow terminal
bronchioles, which terminate in the alveoli. There are many millions of alveloi in each
lung, and these are the areas responsible for gaseous exchange, presenting a massive
surface area for exchange to occur over.
Each alveolus is very closely associated with a network of capillaries containing
deoxygenated blood from the pulmonary artery. The capillary and alveolar walls are
very thin, allowing rapid exchange of gases by passive diffusion along concentration
gradients.
CO
2
moves into the alveolus as the concentration is much lower in the alveolus than in
the blood, and O
2
moves out of the alveolus as the continuous flow of blood through the
capillaries prevents saturation of the blood with O
2
and allows maximal transfer across
the membrane.